Sports Today: Cincinnati Bengals might have a pair of pass-rushing steals

Aug 17, 2017
  • By Marcus Hartman
Nick Graham
Cincinnati Bengals unsigned draft pick Jordan Willis gets set for a drill during practice Tuesday, June 6 on their practice fields next to Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The training camp performances of a pair of rookie pass rushers indicate the Cincinnati Bengals knew what they were doing when they waited until the third and fourth rounds to address that area of need in the draft. 

Jordan Willis is in the spotlight today after Carl Lawson hogged it for much of the early part of camp (not to mention offseason workouts). 

Willis has flown under the radar in training camp while fourth-round defensive end Carl Lawson has been popping eyeballs with his blazing speed off the edge, but Willis — who ran a 4.53 40-yard dash at the Combine, the fastest of any defensive lineman — cranked things up when the lights came on for last week’s preseason opener against Tampa Bay, recording two quarterback hits, including one of the team’s two sacks.

At 6-foot-2, 261 pounds, Lawson is a bit of a ‘tweener.

He’s trying to make the move to 4-3 outside linebacker, which may or may not delay how soon he gets on the field or what packages he is part of when the season starts. 

Willis is listed six pounds lighter, but at 6-4 has a frame to bulk up and be a true defensive end. 

Together, they could change the look of a defensive front that lacked explosion last season outside of Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, but then again maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise since Pro Football Focus rated both Willis and Lawson as first-round talents

RELATED: How do Bengals draft picks compare to their Pro Football Focus rankings?

So, does that mean we have to stop getting frustrated when they draft “luxury picks” like John Ross in the first round? 

Get back to me when we see how the young offensive tackles perform this season… 

Yesterday, we rejoiced in the fact the Reds played an exciting baseball game

Today we remember why that can be terrible. 

Yes, the 7-6 walk-off loss to the Cubs in Wrigley was just the type of mid-August game that will drive you crazy if it actually matters anymore whether your team wins or loses. 

The agony and the ecstasy of a random baseball game in late summer: 

Once-and-maybe-future Great Reds Hope Homer Bailey was rocked in the first inning but hung around long enough to strike out 10 batters. He also walked five. 

All in all, his 5 2/3rd-inning, six-run start was a reminder of everything Bailey can be. He was missing bats but also missing the plate with great regularity, showing the stuff is still there but the command is not after multiple arm surgeries. 

But the Reds battled back, stringing together three runs in the seventh and tying the game on a two-run homer by Adam Duvall in the eighth. 

Alas, the thrill of the comeback was merely a prelude to disappointment as a bullpen poorly stocked from the night before couldn’t hold the Cubs off. 

Blake Wood’s walk-off wild pitch was so sad it was hilarious, allowing the winning run to score in the bottom of the ninth. 

What’s it all mean????? Nothing, other than maybe this: It’s nice that the boys are still playing hard, and honestly not a bad thing if it still broke your heart a little bit. 

That’s how you know you’re alive after all… 

The game also featured the first career MLB hit by former Dragon Phil Ervin — a homer in the seventh inning… 

A note on a local guy trying to make an NFL team as an undrafted free agent: The Baltimore Sun reports Bam Bradley has turned some heads at linebacker this week with the Ravens. 

The Trotwood-Madison grad had three tackles in Baltimore’s first preseason game and said he is feeling on top of his game mentally. 

“So I feel like I’m getting better every day, and at the end of the day, that’s what I’m striving for even if I’m not at the level of some of these Pro Bowl guys like [middle linebacker] C.J. [Mosley] and guys that have done it for so long. I’m just trying to get better every day because eventually that’s where I want to be.” 

The former Pitt standout still has a long way to go to make the roster, but everybody's gotta start somewhere… 

Looks like the NFL’s decision to broadly overreach in suspending Ezekiel Elliott for alleged domestic violence incidents is going to result in a nasty legal battle. 

Or at least a public relations war leading up to the former Ohio State running back still missing 4-6 games given the way the NFL’s system of punishment is set up. 

I haven’t seen anyone call it Zeke-Gate yet, but give it time. 

The latest developments were a leak of the NFL’s report on Elliott’s case and dueling statements from the league and the often-toothless NFLPA. 

That is a strong statement from a players’ association that has been criticized for not doing enough to support its members in the past, though of course it could be done just for show. 

Regardless, can you believe the NFL continuing to operate out of its depth in terms of off-field punishment is making everyone look bad again

Stunning, I know. 

RELATED: Trying to clean up image often backfires for NFL

On this I continue to feel that punishing Elliott for general dumbassery probably would have made some sense (though I should say I’m not sure if that’s allowed by the CBA). 

But concluding he is guilty of a heinous crime after Columbus police determined not only that they lacked evidence to get a conviction but also published the fact they had concerns about the accuser’s credibility is over the top.